Lungwort

Pulmonaria Officinalis

Lungwort is a perennial herb that normally grows up to a height of one feet or 30 cm. The plant bears wide oval shaped leaves at the base, while the upper leaves are relatively smaller marked with the irregular color pattern, especially white spots. The lungwort plants also bear bunches of pink-purple colored flowers.

Going by the Middle Ages Doctrine of Signatures, an ancient European philosophy, herbs bearing parts that resembled human body parts, animals, or other objects, had useful relevancy to those parts, objects or animals. It may as well indicate to the surroundings or specific places in which herbs grew. Following this theory, lungwort is effective in treating chest ailments and hence its leaves bear resemblance to the lung tissues.

The lungwort plant is native to Europe and western Asia and belongs to the family of Boraginaceae and the Pulmonaria genus of flowering plants. One species of the plant – P. mollissima – is found in the region spreading from east to central Asia. Rough estimates prepared by various herbalists list around 10 to 18 species of Pulmonaria growing in the wild. However, researchers have found it extremely difficult and perplexing to classify or categorize (taxonomy) this species of the plant.

Interestingly, the scientific term Pulmonaria has been obtained from the Latin word Pulmo literally translated to English means ‘the lung’. During the period of ‘sympathetic magic’ (magic based on the belief that somebody or something can be supernaturally affected by something done to an object representing the person or thing) people were of the view that the white spots on the oval leaves of P. Officinalis were a sign of unhealthy lungs affected by ulcers. Consequently, they widely used the lungwort or medicines prepared from its derivatives to treat all pulmonary diseases. Significantly, owing to its properties to heal pulmonary diseases or infections of the lungs, the plant’s name in many languages refers to the lungs.

For instance, in English, it is known as ‘lungwort’, while in German it is called ‘Lungenkraut’. On the other hand, in some languages in Eastern Europe, the plant derives its common name from a word of ‘honey’. Like in Russian it is known as ‘medunitza’, while the Polish call it ‘miodunka plamista’ – both terms meaning ‘honey’ in the respective languages. In addition, in English lungwort also has many colloquial or idiomatic names – Soldiers and Sailors, Spotted Dog, Joseph and Mary, Jerusalem, Cowslip and Bethlehem Sage.

Plant Part Used

Leaves.

Herbal Remedy Use

The mucilage (a gummy substance secreted by some plants) properties of lungwort make it immensely helpful in treating chest problems, especially chronic bronchitis. In addition, lungwort may be blended with other herbs like coltsfoot for an effectual remedy for chronic coughs and also be administered for alleviating asthma. A combination of lungwort and coltsfoot is particularly effective in curing whooping cough. In addition, lungwort may also be used in curing ailments like a sore throat as well as jamming. Years ago, physicians applied lungwort for coughing up blood released owing to tubercular contagion. It may be mentioned here that leaves of lungwort plant are astringent (a substance that draws tissue together) in nature and are frequently used to impede bleeding.

The leaves, as well as the flowering shoots of lungwort, possess diuretic, astringent, demulcent (soothing), a little expectorant, emollient (relaxing) and resolvent (solvent) attributes. These parts of the herb are frequently employed for their curative impact when an individual is suffering from pulmonary ailments and their mucilaginous character makes these parts useful in the treatment of sore throats. The leaves as well as the flowering stems of lungwort are harvested during the spring and dried up for use when necessary afterward. Distilled water prepared from this herb is known to be effectual eyewash for healing tired eyes. In addition, a homeopathic remedy is also prepared using this herb. This homeopathic medication is employed to cure coughs, bronchitis as well as diarrhea.

Culinary 

The leaves of the herb lungwort also have culinary uses and they can be consumed either raw or after being cooked. The leaves may also be included in salads or employed in the form of a potherb. The leaves of lungwort have a rather insipid taste, but they have low fiber content and are favourable for being added into salads, despite their somewhat hairy and mucilaginous texture. However, the leaves of this herb are less acceptable for consumption on their own owing to these attributes. When cooked, the tender leaves of lungwort make a delicious vegetable. Nevertheless, the texture of the leaves has been found to be slightly oily. It may be noted that lungwort forms an element of the beverage known as Vermouth.

Habitat

Having its origin in Europe and the Caucasus, lungwort grows best in meadows at the foot of mountains and in humid locations. The leaves of lungwort are normally harvested in the latter part of spring.

The herb lungwort thrives well in any type of reasonably good soil, counting heavy clay soils. This herb has a preference for partial shade in a damp soil rich in humus content. Lungwort thrives well in shady places, especially beside tall buildings. The lungwort plants cultivated in shady locales are able to endure drought provided the soil has rich humus content. The leaves of this herb have a tendency to wither during hot weather in places where the herb is cultivated in full sunlight. The plants are resilient up to approximately 20ºC. Plants belonging to this genus are seldom if ever, bothered by rabbits and deer. Lungwort plants are a precious early on resource of nectar, especially for bees. This species has numerous named varieties, and are chosen for their decorative worth. Lungwort easily hybridizes with other plants belonging to the same genus.

Lungwort is generally propagated by its seeds, which are sown in a greenhouse during the spring. When the seedlings have grown adequately big to be handled, prick them out independently and plant them in separate containers. The young plants need to be grown in a greenhouse during the first year of their existence. The plants may be transplanted outdoors into the permanent locations during the later part of spring or early summer when the last anticipated frost has passed.

Alternately, lungwort may also be propagated by means of root division done either during the spring or in autumn. In case the soil is not very arid, the root division may also be undertaken during the early part of summer following the flowering season of the plants. Propagating lungwort through root division is extremely simple and you may directly plant the larger divisions outdoors into their permanent locations. It has, however, been found that it is better to grow the smaller divisions initially in pots in a cold frame in a slightly shady location. When these are properly established, they may be planted outdoors in their permanent positions during the later part of spring or in early summer.

Constituents

Chemical analysis of lungwort has shown that the herb encloses tannins, flavonoids, saponins, vitamin C. However, dissimilar to many other members of the borage family, lungwort does not comprise pyrrolizidine alkaloids.

Infusions and Tinctures

Lungwort can be ingested both as an infusion as well as a tincture. To prepare an infusion of the herb, add one to two teaspoons of dried up lungwort in a cup of boiling water and leave it to permeate for around 10 to 15 minutes. An individual should drink the infusion prepared from lungwort thrice daily. In the case of your favor lungwort tincture, ingest 1 ml to 4 ml of the herbal tincture daily.

Goldthread

Health Benefits of Goldthread

Goldthread, also known as coptis or canker root, is a genus of perennial herbs that have been part of Asian and North American traditional medicine for hundreds of years. The roots of the plant look like a tangled mass of gold thread, hence its name. Herbal goldthread is actually the powdered rhizome, or underground stem, of the goldthread plant.

goldthread-roots-1Traditional Uses for Goldthread

Goldthread is an important herb in both Ayurvedic and Chinese traditional medicine. Starting in the Tang dynasty, goldthread was used to make a medicine called Huang-Lian-Jie-Du Decoction (HLJDD), which is still used today. Herbalist relies on HLJDD to address a variety of ailments, including soothing irritation, promoting normal blood sugar, and supporting gastrointestinal health.

Native Americans used the herb as a digestive aid and to remedy infections and mouth sores. It’s from this that goldthread got the nickname “canker root.” The practical value of goldthread wasn’t limited to therapeutic applications; because of its bright gold color, Indigenous Americans also used goldthread to produce a yellow dye and to flavor beer.

Health Benefits of Goldthread

The healing properties of goldthread aren’t simply folkloric in nature. Modern medicine has started to examine the potential health benefits of this herb. Animal testing confirms that goldthread can soothe redness, swelling, and irritation. Studies have found that goldthread can promote normal blood sugar and even support brain health.

Goldthread owes its healing abilities to high concentrations of several potent alkaloid compounds. Of these, berberine is most commonly associated with goldthread’s benefits. Berberine has dozens of therapeutic applications. It can protect against some types of harmful organisms and soothe irritated tissue. It promotes normal lipid profiles and is even known to boost the immune system. Multiple studies suggest that berberine may be of benefit for those suffering from obesity. Berberine promotes heart health, bone and joint health, brain health, digestive health, liver health, and is beneficial for the respiratory system. Perhaps most intriguing of all, berberine has been evaluated for activity against cancer but further research is necessary to fully understand its potential or draw conclusions.

Berberine isn’t goldthread’s only beneficial compound, though. Other alkaloids present in goldthread include palmatine, epi berberine, jatrorrhizine, columbamine, and coptisine. Coptisine, in particular, has received attention from researchers recently. It’s currently being examined for its ability to promote brain health. Among its other positive attributes, coptisine may help a fever, relieve discomfort, support heart health, and it’s a strong antioxidant. Additionally, it encourages normal cellular respiration.

Where to Find Goldthread

Many varieties of goldthread are native to Asia and North America and some are actually critically endangered. There are two reasons for this—one is genetic and one is man-made. The genetic cause is a random mutation that results in low pollen and seed production in certain species of goldthread. This mutation affects up to 80% of Coptis teeta, a type of goldthread from the eastern Himalayas. The second cause is overexploitation by humans. Goldthread is a victim of its own success. It’s desirable properties as a therapeutic herb has led to widespread overharvesting.

Finding a substitute for goldthread may be tricky. Goldenseal is a herb that also contains berberine. But, like goldthread, goldenseal has been severely over-harvested. You can find goldenseal in most drug stores, but the quality is dubious. Oregon grape root may be a better alternative than goldenseal. Although it has a lower berberine concentration, Oregon grape root is more sustainable and readily available. In fact, the plant is so common that it’s often considered an invasive species outside its native habitat.

While several varieties of goldthread are endangered and in need of protection, other species remain plentiful. Populations of some formerly threatened species, like the North American coptis trifolia, are recovering. If you’re careful about your source, goldthread itself is still a good option. You can find goldthread in supplements, both by itself and blended with other herbs.

Elecampane

Inula helenium

Also, Known As

  • Elecampane
  • Horseheal
  • Scabwort

Elecampane (botanical name Inula helenium) is a tall, bristly perennial plant that is native to south-eastern Europe and western Asia. This herb, which bears yellow flowers resembling the daisy, has been naturalized in North America and is found growing in abundance in the moist meadows, fields and along the roads in the central and eastern regions of the United States and neighboring Canada. Elecampane belongs to the Asteraceae family and grows up to a height of four to six feet. The herb has a heavy branching stem that emerges from a basal rosette (a circular arrangement of leaves at the base) with leaves that are large, oval-shaped and pointed at the end. The herb bears vivid yellow flower heads during the period between the middle to the end of the summer. The flower heads of elecampane are generally four inches in diameter and appear like diminutive sunflowers. The root of this herb is large, weighty and elongated. While the exterior of the root is yellowish, the color changes to white inside. The roots of elecampane are medicinally useful and release an aroma akin to violets in blossom.

The elecampane herb is also commonly known as ‘Horseheal’ and ‘Scabwort’ – both names derived from the plant’s original medical use. The herb was used to treat horses and, hence, the name ‘Horseheal’. In ancient time, veterinary practitioners used the herb to treat pulmonary ailments in horses. On the other hand, the plant’s usefulness in healing scabs on sheep gave it the name ‘Scabwort’. The Latin classical name for elecampane is Inula.

Elecampane is an attractive herb with leaves bearing a resemblance to those of the mullein herb, while the blooms appear as petite sunflowers. The herb grows naturally all over Europe and in the temperate climatic regions of Asia and can be found in an area extending in so far as north-western India and southern Siberia. In North America, the herb is found growing in the wild in a region extending from Nova Scotia to North Carolina and again towards the west to Missouri. This is one of the tall herbs that may grow up to a maximum height of six feet.

The stem of elecampane plant is heavy having deep grooves and it branches out at the top. The base of the herb is covered with a rosette of big, oval-shaped leaves that grow up to one to 1 ½ feet long and four inches in width. The leaves comprising the rosette at the base of the elecampane herb are soft and silky with jagged borders. On the other hand, the elecampane leaves that grow on the plant’s stem are comparatively shorter and wider and usually hold on to the stem. The plant bears vivid yellow flowers appearing on outsized terminal heads. The flowers have a diameter varying from three to four inches. The root of the herb resembles a rhizome. These tuber-like roots of elecampane are large, juicy and branch out. The roots release an aroma resembling violets in bloom (as mentioned before).

Propagating the herb from its offshoots and/ or root cuttings is the best way to grow elecampane. The root cuttings, which should be ideally two inches in length, are usually done from mature plants during autumn. The root cuttings need to be covered with somewhat damp, sandy soil and preserved in a room having a steady temperature around 50°F and 60°F during the winter months. By the time it is spring, the root cuttings will develop new shoots and they may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors once the threat of frosting is over. For ideal growth of the plants, the root cuttings with shoots need to be positioned in spaced out rows three feet from one another and there ought to be an approximate distance of 18 inches between two plants. Alternately, elecampane may also be propagated from its seeds without much trouble. Growing elecampane from its roots is best for indoors and in a cold frame during the early phase of spring. Even when the plants are grown from seeds indoors, they need to be transplanted outdoors once the risk of frosting is over. Generally, the elecampane herbs have a preference for a clay loam that is damp and also in damp soils with a good drainage system. The plants also have the aptitude to grow in partial shades.

elecampane-root

Of all the parts of the elecampane, its roots are used for treating various conditions. As mentioned earlier, the roots of the herb are collected during the second autumn of the plant’s existence – precisely after it has withered two frosting seasons. In fact, the roots of the herb are regarded to be effective for remedial purposes only in the second year of their growth. In primordial Rome, people used the medication prepared with elecampane roots to treat indigestion following a sumptuous meal in a banquet. The herb became a part of traditional medication when the people of ancient Rome and Greece used it as a remedy for cold, as they believed that it helped perspiration and also to be effective in drawing out phlegm. During the 19 the century, people boiled the elecampane roots in a sugar solution to prepare cough syrups and lozenges to cure asthma. Some people consumed these sugary roots simply as candy.

The roots of elecampane initially taste slightly sticky, but subsequently, it becomes aromatic after chewing them for some time. In addition, the roots are also somewhat bitter and overpowering and possess a pleasant scent something like the odor of camphoraceous orris.

People in earlier days also considered the elecampane roots to be beneficial for the stomach. In fact, the Romans used it regularly to overcome indigestion. Later on, elecampane became the principal herbal element in a digestive wine prepared during the medieval period known as potio Paulina or the ‘drink of Paul’. In fact, ‘drink of Paul’ referred to St. Paul’s instructions recorded in the Bible regarding the use of a small amount of wine for the health of the stomach – ‘use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake’.

Apart from the herb being beneficial for the stomach, the bright yellow blooms of the elecampane made it an attractive garden plant. However, the early European settlers in North America did not cultivate the plant for either of these virtues. On the contrary, they grew the plant for its remedial value in treating skin ailments, especially on horses and sheep. The roots of the herb were widely popular for treating pulmonary diseases in horses and scabs on sheep. Such veterinary use of the herb gave it its common names – ‘Horseheal’ and ‘Scabwort’. In addition, the roots of elecampane were also used to treat humans, especially respiratory ailments. Interesting enough, this is one reason why the herb was once cataloged in the United States Pharmacopeia.

Plant Parts Used

Root, flowers.

Remedial Properties

Since time immemorial elecampane has been regarded as an effective remedy against respiratory disease and as a stimulating herb for the respiratory system. The herb has a warming impact on the lungs along with its aptitude to tenderly invigorate coughing up or drawing out phlegm (clearing the chest of mucus accumulation) rendered elecampane a harmless medication for the young as well as the old. The herb may be utilized for nearly all chest problems and is highly effective when the patient is weak or incapacitated.

The remedial properties of elecampane have resulted in its specific use for curing chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma. The herb is especially effective in these conditions since it not only relieves the linings of the bronchial tube but is also a useful expectorant. Besides these virtues, elecampane has a somewhat bitter flavor that facilitates recuperation by perking up the digestive system as well as in the absorption of ingested nourishments by the body.

For ages, people have been taking preparations made with elecampane roots to stimulate the digestive process. The herb promotes appetite and, at the same time alleviates dyspepsia (stomach upset). In addition, the herb is also effective to treat and flush out worms from the body.

Long back, practitioners of herbal medicine prescribed formulations prepared with the elecampane root to treat tuberculosis. Elecampane has the aptitude to blend suitably with further antiseptic herbs and, hence, it is still used to cure contagions like flu and tonsillitis. The herb has curative properties, while its tonic action harmonizes with elecampane’s capability to offset infections.

Habitat and Growing Elecampane

Elecampane is indigenous to Eurasia, especially south-eastern Europe, and western Asia, but now has been naturalized in various temperate climatic zones, which includes several regions of North America, particularly the United States. Apart from the naturally growing elecampane, the plant is also cultivated for its remedial properties. Elecampane may be propagated by root division or from its seeds during spring. This herb has a preference for damp and well-drained soil. The root of the herb, which actually possesses all the medicinal properties of the plant, is harvested in autumn, sliced into pieces and dehydrated at high temperatures. While the herb is no longer popular in England and largely not cultivated there, people in other countries of the continent, such as Germany, Holland, and Switzerland still continue to cultivate elecampane for its medicinal properties. In fact, the herb is still cultivated extensively close to the German township of Collada, which is near Leipzig.

The elecampane herb thrives well in locations that are damp and shady and also grows well in the common garden soil. However, the plant thrives best when the soil is rich and loamy with the ground being moist, but having a proper drainage system.

It takes little effort to grow the elecampane plants. If you are propagating the plant with its seeds, it is best to sow the mature seeds in cold frames or outdoors during the spring. Nevertheless, the best way to propagate elecampane is to use root cuttings from mature plants with an eye or bud. The root cuttings are normally done during autumn. Each root cutting should be approximately two inches in length and they need to be covered with somewhat moist sandy soils immediately after harvesting. During the winter months, the root cutting should be preserved in a room under a consistent temperature ranging between 50°F and 60°F. These roots grow roots quite easily and develop new shoots by the next spring. Once the frosting period is over, these root cuttings with new shoots may be planted in their permanent positions outdoors. The root cutting need to be planted in rows about three feet apart and the plants should have a distance of about 12 inches to 18 inches from one another. After placing the root cuttings in their permanent position, it is necessary to keep the ground free of weeds. The soil around the plantation should be dug up a little during the following summer with a view to augment the root growth. Usually, the roots are ready for use during the second autumn of their existence. It may be noted here that elecampane roots are medically viable only when they are two years old.

A good stock of elecampane plants may also be obtained by slicing the roots into small sections, each measuring two inches long, and covering them with luxuriant, light, sandy soil and preserving them in mild temperatures during the winter month. The elecampane plants cannot withstand frosting and, hence, care should be taken to protect them during this season. In fact, even after they are planted outdoors, they may require protection from frosts during the first year of their existence.

Research

Way back in 1804, scientists were able to segregate inulin from elecampane for the first time and the substance derived its name from the herb. Inulin has been found to possess the property of secreting mucous (mucilaginous) and this aspect of the substance facilitates in soothing the linings of the bronchial tubes.

Alantolactone: Alantolactone found in elecampane is believed to possess anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, this element inhibits the secretion of mucous and invigorates the immune system.

In general, elecampane possesses a tonic, expectorant impact and stimulates drawing out a cough formed by the mucous secretions from the lungs. The tonic and expectorant properties of elecampane are attributed to the volatile oil enclosed by the herb as well as the antiseptic aspects of the herb.

In fact, in 1804, Valentine Rose of Berlin found that elecampane encloses plenty of the substance known as inulin. While Valentine names the substance Alantin derived from the plant’s German name Alantwurzel and French name Aunée, by and large, the name inulin proposed by botanist Thompson was accepted. The chemical composition of inulin is similar to that of starch, but to some degree, it is also opposite of starch. In effect, inulin replaces starch in the root system of Compositae (plants with heads made up of several florets). While the plant is living, inulin easily disbands in the diluted sap and when the plants are dead and dried, this substance accumulates in the cells as shapeless heaps that are inactive in polarized light. Although inulin and starch appear to be alike, the former differs from starch as it releases a yellow color, rather than blue, when it interacts with iodine. In addition, inulin also differs from starch in a number of ways – when it dissolves in boiling water, it does not form any paste, as in the case of starch, and it remains unchanged when it sediments after the water solution cools down. Moreover, unlike starch, inula does not produce any volatile compound when it interacts with nitric acid. However, when inula is heated for a long period or reacts with watered down acids, it first transforms into inulin and then to levulin eventually changing to levulose. Inula somewhat transforms into sugar when it is fermented.

In 1864, Julius von Sachs demonstrated that it is possible to hasten the extraction of inulin in the globular mass of needle-shaped crystalline form by submerging the elecampane roots either in alcohol or glycerine.

In fact, the quantity of inulin present in elecampane differs depending on the season but is found in maximum amount during autumn. Hence, the plant is harvested during autumn. In 1870, Hans Drangendorff made inulin a subject of a highly comprehensive dissertation. He, however, acquired the root of elecampane during October and hence, it had approximately 44 percent of the substance. In spring, the herb contains a mere 19 per cent of inulin as much of it is substituted by or transformed into levulin, mucilage, sugar and different glucosides. It has been found that inulin is extensively dispersed in the perennial roots of Compositae and is naturally present in Goodeniaceae, Campanulaceae, Stylidiaceae, and Lobeliaceae. In addition, the substance is also found occurring naturally in the root of the White Ipecacuanha, belonging to the class of Violaceae, mostly found in Brazil.

It has been found that inulin is intimately related to inulenin in elecampane. Inulin may be obtained in the form of microscopic needles that have an aptitude to dissolve in cold water and diluted alcohol, while pseudo-inulin that is found in the form of uneven grains and are highly soluble in hot water. Pseudo-inulin also dissolves in diluted and warm alcohol but does not dissolve in chilled alcohol.

In early 1660, Le Febre noticed when the elecampane roots are exposed to refinement using water, it formed a substance that could be turned into crystals at the top of the receiver and comparable crystals could be detected when thin segments of the herb’s roots are heated watchfully; Le Febre also observed that the crystals were formed like natural blooming on the exterior of the roots that have been left unattended for prolonged periods. The efflorescence formed on the outer side of the roots was believed to be a separate body called helenin or elecampane camphor. However, studies undertaken by Kallen in 1874 demonstrated that the efflorescence could be identified as two different substances that had the aptitude to form crystals. Kallen named these two different crystallizable substances as Helenin, a mass having no essence or hue, and Alantcamphor, which possessed a flavor and scent similar to peppermint. Further research on the subject, discovered that the crystalline substance formed by elecampane roots the following distillation with water in the ratio of 1:2 per cent and related with approximately 1 percent of the unstable oil enclosed by the herb, actually comprises alantolactone, iso-alantolactone as well as alantolic acid. All these substances are crystalline in form, having a near monochrome, but possess a slight scent and essence. The oily part of the distillate known as alantol is a dull fluid possessing a scent similar to peppermint.

Constituents

  • Inulin (up to 44%)
  • Volatile oil (up to 4%), containing alantol and sesquiterpene lactones (including alantolactone)
  • Triterpene saponins ( dammarane dienol)

Remedial Application

As discussed earlier, of all its parts, only the tuber roots and sometimes the petite yellow flowers of elecampane are used for remedial purposes. Several preparations made with the elecampane roots, such as tincture, decoction, syrup, and wash, are used to treat different conditions. On the other hand, the flowers of the herb are only used to prepare a decoction.

Root:
The root of elecampane possesses several medicinal properties, including diuretic, stimulant, diaphoretic (a medication that promotes sweating), expectorant (a medication that promotes discharge of phlegm), and antiseptic, acerbic and mild tonic. In ancient times, medications prepared with elecampane roots were used by herbalists to cure certain ailments in women, edema or excess fluid accumulation in the body tissues as well as skin infections.
DECOCTION – A decoction prepared with the roots of elecampane is used to treat conditions like asthma, bronchitis, problems of the upper respiratory system as well as relieve the symptoms of hay fever. The decoction should be consumed on a regular basis as a common stimulant or to cure venerable chronic respiratory problems. The decoction also serves as a digestive stimulant and refreshment for the liver.
TINCTURE – The tincture prepared with the roots of elecampane is taken to cure weakness as well as chronic respiratory problems.
WASH – The decoction prepared with elecampane roots or the watered down tincture made from the herb’s roots may be used as a wash to cure eczema (inflammation of the skin), rashes and also varicose ulcers.
SYRUP – Prepare elecampane syrup by boiling sliced roots of the herb in a sugar solution. Alternately, the syrup may also be prepared with elecampane decoction. Take the syrup at regular intervals to alleviate a cough.
Flowers:
In addition to the tuberous roots, the bright yellow flowers of elecampane enclose certain medicinal properties and, hence, they are used to prepare decoction along with other herbs and organic substances for treating a number of conditions. In addition, the flowers of the herb are also used to prepare the medicinal syrup.
DECOCTION – Decoction prepared with elecampane flowers may be taken to relieve queasiness, vomiting or coughs with profuse phlegm. On the other hand, prepare a formulation blending 10 g of elecampane flowers with 10 g freshly cut ginger root, 5 ml of licorice root and 10 ml of ban xi and take it on a regular basis to cure an overload of phlegm in the stomach accompanied with queasiness or nausea, flatulence, swollenness of the abdominal region and vomiting of mucus.
SYRUP – Syrup prepared by boiling the elecampane flower decoction with sugar may be taken in dosages of 10 ml to 20 ml for treating coughs.

Vermifuge wine

A wine prepared with elecampane roots and other ingredients, especially alcoholic beverages, is useful in expelling worms and other parasites from the intestines. The following ingredients are required to prepare this vermifuge wine:

  • Seven ounces (200 g) fresh or dried finely chopped elecampane root
  • One cup (250 ml) gin or vodka
  • One-fourth cup (75 g) sugar cane
  • Four cups (one liter) red wine

Soak the chopped elecampane root in alcohol for about a week in an amber-hued jar and store it in a dark place. After a week of maceration, add the red wine and sugar to the solution and leave the solution for about a month, shaking the jar at regular intervals. After a month has passed, filter the solution and store it in a clean glass jar. The herbal wine prepared is aromatic and possesses aperients (mildly laxative), digestive and stimulant properties. Take the wine in a dosage of one ounce (25 ml) in a liqueur glass prior to meals for three successive days. After taking the wine for three days, give a break for 10 days and continue taking it for another three consecutive days. Repeat this treatment thrice. Here is a word of caution – it is advisable not to drink this preparation if you have an ulcer, are suffering from diarrhea or are in the initial stage of pregnancy it may cause undesirable side effects.

Hypoglycemic and Hypolipidemic Effects of Aloe Vera

Type 2 diabetes is often associated with alterations in metabolism, free fatty acid accumulation, inflammation, and oxidative stress. There are several standard pharmaceutical treatments; however, they may not treat all associated symptoms and may cause adverse side effects. Aloe vera (Aloe vera, Xanthorrhoeaceae) has been used traditionally in many countries throughout the world for skin ailments and gastrointestinal problems. This review highlights studies on the potential use of aloe vera to treat diabetes and its symptoms.

Aloe vera contains anthraquinones, phytosterols, carbohydrates, and other bioactive compounds. Phytosterols have been found to aggregate cholesterol, resulting in lower systemic cholesterol levels. A polysaccharide called acemannan has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects via the activation of cytokines. In mice with diabetes, aloe vera phytosterols significantly decreased both fasting blood glucose concentrations and glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c). In rats with diabetes, 300 mg/kg of an ethanolic extract of aloe vera elevated insulin concentrations and normalized blood glucose levels. This extract also resulted in lower lipid, cholesterol, and kidney triglyceride concentrations.

Aloe vera extract at 0.5% and 1% weight per volume was shown to increase the count of Lactobacillus casei, a potentially beneficial species of gut microbiota. In diabetic rats, a water extract modulated the activity of an enzyme critical to gluconeogenesis and lowered lipid peroxidase activity. Phytosterols in aloe vera increased the expression of peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma and -alpha (PPARγ and PPARα, respectively), as well as many other genes upstream of metabolic processes, such as fatty acid oxidation and gluconeogenesis, in obese mice. In cells, aloe vera extract activated glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) expression, the protein transporter involved in glucose uptake.

There have been several clinical trials for aloe vera’s potential use in treating diabetes. Patients with diabetes taking a fraction of aloe vera containing acemannan and the glycoprotein verectin three times per day for 12 weeks were shown to have lowered fasting blood glucose and triglyceride concentrations. The mechanism of this activity is thought to be due to the attenuation of glucose absorption from acemannan’s metabolites. Those with diabetes taking one 600-mg capsule daily of aloe vera leaf gel had lowered blood glucose, total cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations.

In those with prediabetes or early diabetes, aloe vera gel consumption for eight weeks lowered body weight, fat mass, fasting blood glucose, and insulin concentrations. Patients with diabetes taking aloe vera gel powder at 100 mg and 200 mg for three months [it is assumed daily] had a decrease in fasting and fed glucose, blood pressure, triglycerides, and total and LDL cholesterol concentrations. In another study of aloe vera extract administered at 300 and 500 mg twice daily for eight weeks in patients with prediabetes, those taking 300 mg had significantly lower fasting blood glucose concentrations, while those taking 500 mg had decreased HbA1c, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol levels.

In a study in patients with diabetes, 60 days of 600 mg per day of aloe vera extract did not result in any adverse side effects on kidney or liver functions. In another 12-week trial, aloe vera fractions did not cause adverse side effects; however, aloe vera was thought to cause diarrhea and vomiting in a separate study.

Although many of these studies suggest that aloe vera may be efficacious in treating diabetes, it is mentioned that various extracts and preparations showed different bioactivity. The authors state that future work investigating aloe vera whole extract is necessary for determining mechanisms of action.

Pothuraju R, Sharma RK, Onteru SK, Singh S, Hussain SA. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of Aloe vera extract preparations: a review. Phytother Res. February 2016;30(2):200-207.

Black Cumin for Improving Learning and Memory

Black cumin (BC; Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae) seed oil has been used historically as a preventative and restorative medicine. BC has been reported to have many useful properties such as immunopotentiation, bronchodilatation, antitumor, antihistaminic, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, hepatoprotective, and gastroprotective effects. However, according to the authors, there is a relative lack of research supporting the use of BC on the central nervous system, in particular learning and memory. This review article reports in vitro, in vivo, and clinical studies that support the potential use of BC to enhance learning and memory.

black-cumin-herb

Constituents

The traditional effects of BC are mostly attributed to the fixed and essential oils, especially the quinone constituents, including thymoquinone, which makes up 30-48% of the total quinone compounds. Thymoquinone is neuroprotective in several in vitro models such as amyloid beta (Aβ)-induced neurotoxicity. The essential oil also contains thymol, carvacrol, γ-terpinene, and p-cymene, which also have anticholinesterase and antioxidant effects in vitro, and flavonoids that are reported to improve learning, memory, and cognition in animal models. The anticholinesterase activity is consistent with positive effects on learning and memory, especially following scopolamine administration.

Other effects of BC in animals include the following:

  • Hyperglycemia is associated with cognitive decline. In rat models, pretreatment with BC reduced streptozotocin-induced cognitive impairment, restored antioxidant enzyme levels, ameliorated spatial memory disturbances, reduced oxidative stress, and normalized the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal gland axis.
  • In a rat model of cognitive impairment, thymoquinone improved antioxidant enzyme levels and spatial learning.
  • A study in rats demonstrated that BC can improve spatial memory performance.
  • One study in rodents showed that BC can decrease anxiety and increase serotonin turnover in the brain.
  • Epilepsy can cause poor cognition. BC hydroalcoholic extract prevented learning and memory declines in a rodent model of epilepsy.
  • Hypothyroidism is associated with learning and memory impairments. In neonatal rats, hypothyroidism was reversed by BC hydroalcoholic extract.

In humans

The authors very briefly describe two uncontrolled studies in humans. In one study, executive functions in various memory-related tests such as logical memory, digit span, letter cancellation, Rey-Osterrieth complex figure, trail making, and Stroop tests were improved in elderly subjects taking 500 mg/day of a commercial BC product for nine weeks. In another study, mood was stabilized, anxiety was decreased, and memory was improved in adolescent male subjects taking 500 mg/day BC for four weeks. The authors do not mention whether the two studies were controlled nor do they identify the products used.

The mechanism by which BC enhances learning and memory are still unknown. However, the anticholinesterase effect is surely a major component. The authors conclude that the preclinical data support further research on the potential use of BC to treat neurodegeneration-related diseases or brain injury affecting learning and memory.

Sahak MKA, Kabir N, Abbas G, Draman S, Hashim NH, Hasan Adli DS. The role of Nigella sativa and its active constituents in learning and memory. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:6075679. doi: 10.1155/2016/6075679.